Thursday, August 25, 2016

Oil Industry Ignores Coastal Restoration Efforts Despite Being Battered by Louisiana Flooding

The fossil fuel industry is the primary cause of climate change contributing to flooding and sea level rise yet they fight calls to scale back production and they ignore pleas to fund mitigation efforts. The recent floods in Louisiana killed 13 people, destroyed 60,000 homes and prompted more than 100,000 people to seek assistance from FEMA.  Although it offers no comfort to the thousands left homeless, flooding and erosion are also battering the fossil fuel industry in the confederate state.

The floods in Louisiana have been linked to climate change.  As reported in a Guardian article storms like the one that ravaged the state in August will worsen as the planet warms. Already the multitude of once in 500 year storms are changing the record books and lending credence to climate models. As reported by Wired the latest Louisiana storm is the eighth time in the last year that the US has experienced once in 500-year rainfalls. Climate models predict that such storms will happen again and with greater frequency.

While the government of Louisiana has an increasingly good idea of what needs to be done the state is running a 2 billion deficit and simply does not have the money to make good on its plans. Given that the fossil fuel industry's culpability some have suggested that revenues generated by the state from offshore oil should be put towards coastal restoration and other mitigation efforts. However, Louisiana earns a paltry sum (around 800,000 in 2015) from oil and gas royalties.

Climate change may destroy people's homes but those who are being ravaged by global warming may take some solace from the fact that it also wreaks havoc on the oil industry. As reported in a Bloomberg article by Catherine Traywick, $100 billion of Louisiana's energy infrastructure is threatened by climate change. The seas are rising and erosion is exposing pipes to corrosive seawater. This puts refineries, tank farms and ports at risk.

Each year more than 20 square miles of Louisiana coastline disappears into the sea. The deepwater oil production site in Port Fourchon, loses three feet of shoreline every month.According to a report from Louisiana State University and the Rand Corporation more than 610 miles of pipeline could be exposed over the next 25 years.

“All of the pipelines, all of the things put in place in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s were designed to be protected by marsh,” said Ted Falgout, an energy consultant and former director of Port Fourchon.

With less land to buffer storm surges flood risks increase. The costs of flooding could increase by $20 billion in the coming year.

A study by America’s Wetlands Foundation and Entergy Corp found that the latest flooding forced Exxon Mobil Corp. shut down units at its Baton Rouge refinery, the fourth-largest in the US. A study by America’s Wetlands Foundation and Entergy Corp. suggests that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The oil and gas sector is already losing an average of $14 billion a year to environmental threats to its infrastructure. By 2030, those losses could exceed $350 billion.

While there are some tiny pilot erosion mitigation projects financed by oil companies they are nowhere near where they need to be. BP was forced to pay for coastal restoration as part of a multi-billion dollar settlement for its role in the Deepwater Horizon incident that dumped millions of barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico the effects of which continue to harm wildlife to this day.  As of August the BP oil spill has cost the company a total of $62 billion.

There is virtually no voluntary financial support for coastal restoration from the oil industry. Perhaps one of the reasons that the industry is not doing what it must to protect its own infrastructure is because they realize that they cannot be seen to be investing in mitigation efforts against a threat of their own making.

The fossil fuel industry refuses to acknowledge their culpability even though they know better. It would appear the only way you can get Big Oil to pay for coastal restoration is if they spill millions of gallons of crude.

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